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    Description

    1818 Washington Market Chowder Club Medal, MS64
    Baker-338, Musante GW-97, Unique in Gold
    Ex: Lightbody-Levick-Garrett

    1818 Washington Market Chowder Club Medal, Baker-338, Musante GW-97, Gold MS64 NGC. The Washington Market Chowder Club medals rank among the most iconic and rarest items in the entire Washington series. They are also among the most confounding and mysterious. Until recently, little was known about the club itself or the possible maker of these medals.

    This gold medal first appeared in an 1866 Cogan sale, where it was purchased by New York collector J.N.T. Levick. According to the November 1867 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics, Levick displayed the medal at an October 24, 1867, meeting of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society:

    "Mr. Levick exhibited specimens, in gold and silver, of a token or badge, purporting to have been issued by the 'Washington Market Chowder Club 1818.' Mr. Levick spoke at some length concerning the piece, stating that he was unable to learn its history or origin, and regarded it as a recent fabrication. ... He wished, however, a thorough investigation of the matter."



    The present example next appeared in W. Elliott Woodward's May 1884 sale of Mr. Levick's collection, where Woodward noted: "This piece made its appearance some 30 or 40 years ago; another has never been seen. Concerning the club mentioned, I have no positive information, but have been told that such an organization existed in New York city early in the present century. Gold, perfect, unique." Indeed, the Washington Market Chowder Club was a target company, a shooting club and/or volunteer militia. An entry in the November 29, 1850 issue of the New York Tribune noted:

    "WASHINGTON MARKET CHOWDER CLUB - A company bearing the above name, composed, we understand, of the butchers of Washington Market, passed our office yesterday morning on a target excursion, accompanied by Dodsworth's Band. They were very numerous, and fine looking body of men. And it would be indeed surprising that any company composed of butchers should be anything else than fine looking; that occupation embraces the most robust and hardy men in that city."



    The club appears to have remained active through at least 1854. As for the origin of the club's name, Washington Market was established in 1812 as a produce market in lower Manhattan, and chowder was a staple food of the working class, often shared during boisterous social gatherings. During the 19th century, historian Herby Asbury describes chowder as "the national soup" and as a "thick and substantial mixture, compounded of eels, fish, clams, lobster, chicken, duck, and all kinds of tempting ingredients." Considering the club was made up of the butchers of Washington Market, the name was likely a reference to their work and the hardy meals they enjoyed at club get-togethers.

    Although the nature of the Washington Market Chowder Club itself has not been discussed in numismatic literature, Neil Musante (2016) has made a case for Charles Cushing Wright being the maker of these rare medals. A 23-year-old Wright moved from Albany to New York City in 1818 and began working with the engraver Peter Maverick at No. 2 Pine Street, not too far from Washington Market. The design for this medal is extremely crude, and it is unsigned. However, Musante argues that Wright's "proximity to the Washington Market, the timing of his presence in New York and the design similarity to some of his later work are all strong indicators that this could have been the first medal struck by Charles Cushing Wright." Similar works by Wright include GW-123 to GW-125.

    This cataloger has found a June 7, 1903, New York Times article, "Hotels Which Flourished More Than Fifty Years Ago," which may connect Wright more directly to the Chowder Club medals. The article explains that a Mr. Williams maintained the Union Hall hotel (and tavern) at the corner of Henry and Oliver streets in New York City from 1837 to 1840, and that he issued store cards. It also notes that the Union Hall served as headquarters for the Washington Market Chowder Club. The rare Richard Williams Union Hall token, HT-339, W-NY-1080-10a, to which the article refers is signed BALE at the lower reverse. James Bale was an associate of Charles Cushing Wright from 1829 to 1834. Certainly, more research is needed to confirm when and by whom these medals were struck. The Wright theory remains speculative, built upon circumstantial evidence, and the 1818 date may simply reference the year of the club's founding. It is entirely possible these were struck later, possibly during the 1850s, by someone other than Wright.

    As it stands, the Washington Market Chowder Club medal is unique in gold. It appeared twice at public auction during the 19th century and only once during the 20th. This offering, the first of the 21st century, represents an unequaled opportunity for Washingtonia specialists. The surfaces have a light greenish-gold hue with reddish accents. Design elements in the inner ring around the borders are barely visible, as made, and as noticed on the Partrick silver example. An extraordinary rarity that should not be overlooked.
    Ex: Colin Lightbody Collection (Edward Cogan, 12/1866), lot 738, where it brought $42.50; J.N.T. Levick; Levick Collection (W. Elliott Woodward, 5/1884), lot 2529; Kingdoms Collection (W. Elliott Woodward, 10/1884), lot 1286, where it brought $23.20; T. Harrison Garrett: John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Ruddy, 4/1981), lot 1858; Donald G. Partrick.


    View all of [The Donald G. Partrick Collection ]

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